I've been making stovetop popcorn for a years with acceptable but unexciting results. And it's kind of a lot of work. After recently burning a batch, I realized that the medium-high heat recommended in many recipes is enough to singe kernels before they pop. So I've started turning down the heat and walking away. To make a batch of very tender popcorn with very few old maids, I just:
* pour a thin layer of oil in the pan
* turn the heat to low-medium (will slowly bring the pan to ~300 degrees)
* add a single layer of popcorn kernels, tilting to distribute evenly
* cover loosely (I prefer a small-holed colander) and walk away
** No shaking, no agitation! **
It takes over five minutes for results, but the popcorn I get is tenderer, more consistent, and deeper-flavored than what I've obtained with other techniques. Harold McGee says that popcorn pops best around 380 degrees F, but I've found stellar results at significantly cooler temperatures: the kernels seem to pop in the range from 275 to 300, as the oil slowly heats.
I can't find any descriptions of a similar technique online. Has anybody tried this kind of thing? Or do folks have other preferred stovetop popcorn techniques?